Reasons to Believe

Comparing Computer Operating Systems and Genomes

I know how to use a computer, but truth be told, I really don’t know how a computer works. New research by Yale University scientists gives me a better understanding. These scientists show that the Linux computer operating system (OS) functions like the genome of the bacterium E. coli.1 (For the average person, this realization may not be all that meaningful, but for a biochemist it sure helps—no, really, it helps.)

The close similarity between a computer’s OS and the way the genome controls the cell’s operation is provocative. It not only provides key insight into how genomes function, but it adds to the weight of evidence for a Creator.

Though biochemists have often refered to an organism’s genome as its operating system, this comparison was regarded as an explanatory analogy—a tool to communicate a concept. It took a team of computer scientists to discover that the relationship between the genome and computer operating systems goes well beyond being a handy illustration. It is a strict analogy, an exact correspondence.

It should be noted the researchers did identify one key difference between the Linux OS and the genome. This difference reflects the classic trade-off between designing for cost effectiveness and robustness. Linux appears to be designed for former, and the E. coli genome for the latter.

In The Cell’s Design, I describe numerous ways in which the structure and operation of biomolecules and biochemical systems parallel human designs. I also argue that these close similarities logically compel the conclusion that life’s most fundamental processes and structures stem from the work of an intelligent Agent.

Even if some computer users don’t know exactly how a computer works, they would never believe its operating system resulted from undirected evolutionary processes. Instead the user would conclude the machine and the software that runs itrequired the collaborative effort of a large number of people to design and build. In this context is it reasonable to conclude that the genome’s structure and operation emerged through blind processes?

Subjects: Biochemical Design

Dr. Fazale Rana

In 1999, I left my position in R&D at a Fortune 500 company to join Reasons to Believe because I felt the most important thing I could do as a scientist is to communicate to skeptics and believers alike the powerful scientific evidence—evidence that is being uncovered day after day—for God’s existence and the reliability of Scripture. Read more about Dr. Fazale Rana


1. Koon-Kiu Yan et al., “Comparing Genomes to Computer Operating Systems in Terms of the Topology and Evolution of Their Regulatory Control Networks,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 107 (2010): Early Edition; doi/10.1073/pnas.0914771107